- Knowledge base
- Policy question
In recent times, there have been growing calls to use research evidence in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes. Evidence-based policies and programmes are more likely to bring about expected outcomes, including the transformation of economies and the improvement of people’s livelihoods. To deliberate on innovative approaches to evidence uptake in Africa, over 100 policymakers, researchers, activists, funders and implementors gathered in Nairobi, Kenya from 2–3 May 2019. The conference, which was hosted by the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR), considered the potential transformation that a strong network of stakeholders interested in evidence-based decision making can achieve. The participants discussed concrete ways that researchers have employed in their work with policy actors to enhance the use of evidence in policy processes.
Utafiti Sera and INCLUDE’s African Policy Dialogues
During the conference, participants debated various approaches to evidence-based policy in Africa and the political economies and cultures that facilitate or inhibit the use of evidence in policy processes. One of the approaches featured was Utafiti Sera (research policy). This approach was pioneered in 2015 by PASGR, INCLUDE and other partners in response to the weakness of approaches based on a linear relationship between research and policy needs. Utafiti Sera’s approaches facilitate the building of a community of stakeholders working together to ensure that appropriate and negotiated civic action and policy uptake occur around a particular public problem for which there is research evidence. INCLUDE is proud to have partnered with PASGR and other partners in the use of Utafiti Sera’s approaches in encouraging the use of evidence in six African countries. After a successful first phase, drawing on the Utafiti Sera model, PASGR is working with other partners to implement four new communities on urban governance and city transformation in Nairobi and Kigali, and social protection and youth employment creation in agribusiness in Kenya. Based on the lessons learnt, INCLUDE is employing an innovative approach known as African Policy Dialogues (APDs), which involves a network of policy actors in a given sector thatidentify priority policy issues where evidence is lacking, generate the evidence and use the evidence to inform policies and programmes. In the coming four years, INCLUDE will work with other partners to establish seven APDs.
What are the features of innovative approaches to evidence-based decision making?
The participants discussed the features of innovative approaches to evidence uptake. What is the evidence, or what counts as evidence, was identified as a critical question. Defining evidence narrowly as only peer reviewed research is inadequate. There is a need to consider whose evidence it is and which evidence is dismissed and which is used in decision making. Innovative approaches are approaches that:
Points to note on enhancing the uptake of evidence
Questions whose answers can enhance evidence-based decision making
Based on the experiences of the delegates, several questions were raised whose answers can enhance evidence-based decision making in different fields. Those involved in the use of evidence in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes were encouraged to consider the following questions:
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